Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Guide to Buying Books (for Eli!)

If you are reading this, it’s probably because you know that I love books, and you are interested in purchasing me a book as a gift for some reason. I hearilty thank you, and commend you for knowing that there are few gifts I like better than books (of course, I do like other things too!). Yet I know for many people, buying a book can be difficult, because there are so many to choose from and you want to get a book that the person will like. So I write this in the hopes of helping some poor friend or family member of mine find a book that I will love! Always remember that even if you fail this difficult task, I still love you and will absolutely appreciate whatever I receive, knowing from whom I receive it. So without further ado, let’s begin!

When buying a book, there are two main things you need to consider:

1. The topic of the book.
2. The author of the book.

First, you must know what topics interest the person you are seeking to buy for. In this case, it is me. For those of you know me, you probably know that my interests include:

•Law and Grace
- Justification, sanctification, assurance of salvation
- The atonement
•Systematic theology (how it all fits together), Old and New Testament surveys
•Israel, prophecy, eschatology (end times)
•The apostle Paul
•Ancient history
•History of theology
•Church history
•Holocaust, Jewish history
•NT: any, but especially Romans, Galatians, John, 1 John
•OT: any

I do not like fiction, so you probably have made a mistake if you buy me fiction, though there may be some exceptions, such as certain classics (ex. The Chosen by Chaim Potok, The Brothers of Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky). But even so, I prefer non-fiction books far more than fiction, even if it is good fiction.

The best way to know which type of theology, history or commentary book you should get is to find out what things are currently occupying my attention at the time, that is, if there is anything in particular that is currently relevant to my work. Though this shouldn’t absolutely restrict you. As a general rule, if you spend a little time talking to me about books, you should get a good feel of what things I am interested in and what things I am not. Also, be sure you make sure that I don’t own the book already!

Secondly, the author of the book is very important. There are certain authors that I am eager to read and others I am not so eager to read, regardless of the topic. Knowing what authors a person likes is probably one of the greatest ways of finding a book, because once you know an author they like you can then search through his or her books, and if the author has written a book on a topic that you know they are interested in, you have found a perfect gift!

Here is a list of a few authors that I am interested in. This list is by no means exhaustive, since there are so many good authors to choose from, but it should help you get an idea. Never be afraid to ask me what I think of a certain author.

• Walter C. Kaiser
• Douglas Moo
• Charles Spurgeon
• James Denney
• Martin Luther
• John Calvin
• Thomas R. Schreiner
• Martyn Lloyd-Jones
• John Bunyan
• Jonathan Edwards
• Leon Morris
• John Piper
• Horatius Bonar

Of course, buying a book by an author that is unknown to me doesn’t mean it won’t turn out to be a great book, it just enhances your risk (and there’s nothing wrong with taking risks, just be warned!). You can get a feel for authors by finding out their friends and associations, their publishers, and their lives. For example, you might discover that such and such an author was a close aquaintance of, say, James Denney. In my mind, that would greatly enhance the value of the author! The same is true for authors in the modern day.

I am typically more interested in Calvinistic authors, though there may be exceptions. I enjoy the writings of the Brethren Assemblies because they are so evangelical as well as premillennially oriented. Though I am not a Dispensationalist, I do greatly appreciate Dispensational authors. I’m not afraid of advanced academic books, but I’m interested in authors who not only write, but also have lives to show for it. Books and authors which have been greatly influential in the Church also interest me, as I am always wanting to know how people think and why. Puritans are great, but they aren’t my favorite. As much as I love old authors, I’m not in any way opposed to new. I love authors who love the Bible, love truth, love the gospel.

Now that we have the internet, searching for a good book has become a much easier task, though there is still lots of thought that must go into it. To find a good book requires a labor of love, and for that reason I can assure you that a good book in my hands will always mean a lot to me. It will be special, for it shows me that you care.



Micah and Katie said...

Hey Eli,

Good to know!

I was just wondering if you could tell us all sometime how and when you read books. I find that I don't have time to read any books, even if I want to. My best success is late at night, but with kids, I can't afford that!

Do you have any tips for reading (ie do you speed read or anything like that), and your schedule for reading (ie the times of day and week you do it). Also, when you fit bible reading time into this as well.

Thanks! Micah

Michael Spotts: . said...

Hey, Eli. Thanks for this, it was helpful and interesting to know your method and interests better.

Here's my top pick for 2010:

It is timely, clear, and concise.

Blessings to you in Christ.

Unknown said...

Hi Eli. Let's suppose there's a theoretical person who wants to get you a book. If this person got you 'The Pleasures of God' by John Piper, would you respond by saying you already have read it? And to where should this person mail the book?

Eli said...

@Micah - Hey brother, I'll wager that it would be pretty hard to apply one persons schedule to anothers, because everyone's day is so radically different. I know that if you really want to read (or do anything for that matter) you'll find a way (as the old saying: "Where there's a will there's a way.") Be encouraged, though. We only need to read a very little amount every day to get through a surprising amount of books. If we are steady in just chipping away bit by bit on a day to day basis, we'll see the book-heads roll. It might be reading only a couple paragraphs, but is worth it.

I have tried to read to the Bible devotionally in the morning and before bed. That doesn't mean reading a lot. But for me, my daily routine is unique in that I get to hammer out the Bible with people all throughout the day and that's not to be expected from everyone. As for reading books, like I said, I just chip away at them whenever I get the chance. So I usually carry around with my my Bible and a book for spare moments.

Love you brother!

@Chris - I would answer 1) no, I don't have that book, and 2) one could mail to:

493 S 455 E
Smithfield, UT

God bless, Chris!